22 May Self-respect Begins with Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships. We cannot control the actions of others, but we can set limits that prevent their actions from impacting on us negatively.
How do you know that your boundaries need to be reassessed?
- You say ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’.
- You feel that others take advantage of your good nature.
- You feel drained by other people.
- You feel overwhelmed by others who seem to need you.
- You have less time for yourself because you spend more time doing things for others.
- You please others to keep the peace.
- You take on more than you would like to.
- Feeling guilty when you say ‘no’ to someone.
Examples of unhealthy boundaries:
- A family member who always asking to borrow money.
- A friend who is always late (and never seems to be sorry) or cancels plans at the last minute.
- A spouse who doesn’t help with chores leaving you unfairly overwhelmed.
- A parent who criticises you unfairly.
- Abuse from a partner (physical, verbal or emotional).
- A needy partner.
- Relationships that are no reciprocal – you are always giving and you do not benefit in any way.
- Family/friends who expect you to ‘feel sorry’ for them.
- Others who expect you to cancel your plans to accommodate their desires.
- Doing others’ work in the office, thereby taking on a bigger load when they have less to do.
- Sacrificing your needs in order to please others.
Why do so many people have unhealthy boundaries?
We allow others to push our boundaries because it’s easier than saying ‘no’. Others often make you feel guilty if you turn down their request. A lot of this stems from our upbringing, specifically in cases where we’ve been raised to be kind and helpful to others. However, if saying ‘yes’ to someone else starts to make you feel unhappy, then you are sacrificing too much! The truth is, that other will not initially respond well if you set firmer boundaries, but we need to turn our attention away from their response to our sense of freedom at saying ‘no’. If you don’t set healthy boundaries, not only will others continue to take advantage of you, but you will become bitter & resentful over time and burnout becomes a huge risk! Boundaries are essential to self-respect and emotional health. Your self-esteem is strengthened when you are able to set healthier boundaries.
So, how do you set healthier boundaries?
- Reflect on and list the behaviours of others that cause you to feel angry, resentful or overwhelmed.
- Make a list (this can be mental) of the things you will not tolerate and what you are no longer prepared to accept from others.
- Even the thought of such behaviour from others can evoke deep emotions, but it’s important that in communicating your expectations, you are calm (so you are taken more seriously).
- When communicating your preferences to others, use ‘I-statements’ instead of ‘you-statements’. ‘You-statements’ may lead to the other person becoming defensive (e.g. “you are always inconsiderate…). Rather say ‘I feel…’ or ‘I would appreciate it if…’.
- Think about people you know who have healthy boundaries. Notice how they conduct themselves & what you could learn from them. Also, by spending time with such people, we will find it easier to set our own boundaries. It can be very difficult to set healthy boundaries when you spend time around others who also don’t have good boundaries.
- Set non-negotiable standards for your own self-care and self-compassion. When anything interferes with this, you know it’s a boundary violation. E.g. if you haven’t had a chance to eat for the day and someone demands your time for something less important than your health, you need to say ‘no’ or ‘not now’. Or if you decide that you will lie in on Sunday mornings and you have a friend or family member that wants you to go somewhere with them (that’s not an emergency, of course), then put your needs first.
- It’s important to bear in mind that others boundary violations are more a reflection of their issues than your own. Having said that, do not make someone else’s lack of planning your crisis.
Simple guideline to set healthier boundaries:
- Ask for what you would like from others, so there is no ambiguity. (e.g. ‘I would like you to check with me before making plans with others’ or ‘I would like you to be punctual or inform me if you are running late.’).
- Let others know what behaviour you find unacceptable (e.g. ‘When you go out with your friends every weekend, I feel that our marriage is not a priority.’).
- Tell others what you need from them (e.g. ‘I need you to wash the dishes if I’ve cooked.’).
- Do not give in if the other person’s response is emotional. Some people become dramatic when they feel confronted about behaviour that they are not prepared to take responsibility for. This is THEIR issue, so stick to your needs and let them know that what you’re asking for is important to you – do not put your wishes aside to appease their emotions. It’s not easy, but essential if you want to be respected and taken seriously.
Setting healthier boundaries can be hard work and can you may sometimes feel that it’s easier to just let things be. The problem is that if you don’t do anything about it, you will become bitter, resentful, stressed and burnt out. Those that care about you will understand and will want you to be happy; however, there will be those who will make you feel guilty – these are not your people!